MOSCOW (AP) — Authorities in Russia evacuated 128 coal miners Sunday from a mine in Siberia amid reports of a fire in one of its sections. The news comes weeks after a devastating blast in another Siberian coal mine killed 51 people.
Emergency officials told Russia’s Interfax news agency that a fire occurred in an abandoned mine gallery in the Anatoly Ruban coal mine in the Kemerovo region in southwestern Siberia and about 140 miners were being evacuated. A total of 128 miners have been evacuated from the mine, Interfax reported, citing mine operators as saying that 140 miners were supposed to be on shift Sunday, but only 128 miners were working at the time.
None of them needed medical assistance, the report said.
According to the Siberian Coal Energy Company, which runs the mine, the evacuation was prompted by the “heating of a coal bed” rather than a fire, Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported.
The conflicting reports could not be immediately reconciled.
The evacuations come just several weeks after an explosion in another mine in Kemerovo — the Listvyazhnaya mine —killed 46 miners and five rescuers and became the deadliest coal mine disaster in Russia since 2010.
A probe has revealed multiple violations of safety norms at the Listvyazhnaya mine, including tinkering with methane level indicators in an apparent attempt to maintain production despite the dangers of an explosion. Several managers at the mine and local officials have been arrested and jailed.
In the wake of the tragedy at Listvyazhnaya, Russian President Vladimir Putin has warned officials to strictly observe industrial safety regulations.
Russia has seen several major mine disasters since Soviet times. In 2007, a methane explosion at the Ulyanovskaya mine in the Kemerovo region killed 110 miners. Three years later, two methane blasts and a fire killed 91 people at the Raspadskaya mine in the same Kemerovo region.
In 2016, 36 miners were killed in a series of methane explosions in a coal mine in Russia’s far north.